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National Poetry Month: Lydia Leclerc on cowboys and trauma

On the podcast: We're celebrating National Poetry Month with a series of shorts highlighting the work of Lesley poets.

Find the full transcript after the Episode Notes.

Episode notes

It's National Poetry Month and we're doing things a little differently this month. Each week in April, we're inviting one poet from the Lesley community to share some of their verses and talk about their work. Our first guest is Lydia Leclerc, a current student in the poetry track of our MFA in Creative Writing program, who shares "Cowboys Will Come Up with New Terms for Psychological Conditions" and the backstory.
 

About Lydia

Lydia Leclerc is a writer and a second-semester MFA candidate in the poetry track at Lesley University. Her work focuses on the pastoral, the strange, memory, and longing. Lydia received her bachelor's in Education from Kent State University and was the first place winner of the 2016 Stan & Tom Wick Undergraduate Poetry Prize and the 2016-2017 Donna Zurava Memorial Award for Best Writing Portfolio.

She resides in Kent, Ohio with her husband and their three dogs.

Check out some of our other poetry episodes:

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  • Transcript

    Georgia Sparling: This is Why We Write. A podcast of Lesley University. Every episode we bring you conversations with authors from the Lesley community to talk about books, writing and the writing life.

    Hi, everybody. My name is Georgia Sparling, I produce Why We Write and this month, I'm excited to bring you a special series in honor of National Poetry Month. Every week in April, I've invited a Lesley poet to come onto the show, give us a behind the scenes look into their process, and share one of their poems with us.

    Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Lydia Leclerc, a student in our MFA in creative writing program and an Ohio native. We don't often get to feature current students, so this is a real treat. And I think you're really going to love Lydia's poem and where the idea for it came from. I’ll let Lydia tell you more.

    (Violin music plays)

    Lydia Leclerc: Hi, my name is Lydia Leclerc. I am a second semester MFA candidate in the poetry track at Lesley University. I am going to be reading a poem called “Cowboys Will Come Up With New Terms for Psychological Conditions.”

    I grew up around cows and horses. I grew up working with cows and horses. I wasn't ever, like, a cowboy but my dad's a farmer. I know how to do things. I've been dragged by a bull calf, I've ridden horses, etc. I do write a lot of poetry about the experience of the Midwest, I jokingly refer to it as Midwestern Gothic. I write about what's happened in my in my life and in my family history and everything else. You know, the nitty gritty, the beauty of Ohio in the spring, what happens when you need to put the oldest horse down and he cannot work anymore, honing in and trying to find the poetic while also writing it in a really, really succinct and interesting way.

    One of my favorite poets, Bruce Weigel said, “Say it clearly and you make it beautiful no matter what.” And that's something I try to aspire to. A lot of my poetry is very narrative. I try to tell a story, I try to hone in on a certain experience. But I'm able to play with the lyric traditional a little bit more. And it's kind of opened up my brain a bit.

    Part of the reason I wanted to pursue an MFA is that I was stuck. I needed to be back, I needed to know what to do next. And the feedback that I've received from my mentors, and even from my peers, has been incredibly beneficial. I've been working a lot with persona poetry, which is when the speaker comes from a different point of view than your own. So rather than writing about a situation or experience from my point of view, I'm writing from someone that's not me.

    So this poem, in particular, is not necessarily from the perspective of a cowboy, or you know, someone who competes in a rodeo, but about them.

    (Music stops)

    I work a lot in rhythm in this poem, and pacing, I definitely have a personal connection to this poem by way of I was an equestrian. [laughs] And I rode horses for nine years.

    (Music plays)

    Horseback riding is a trauma-based sport, and that you are supposed to just push past the trauma and continue. This poem is kind of about the idea that the something that might be labeled as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or trauma in general, would be kind of just labeled as something a little bit more familiar, a little bit more poetic.

    And in this case, in the poem, it's kind of labeled as something called the dread. The line itself about like “the dread” is actually from, [laughs] it's from a wholesome Canadian cowboy drama that I watched recently during the pandemic called Heartland. And the one of the stupidest characters in the show mentioned the idea of the dread and I stopped and I looked at my husband and I said, that's a great idea for a poem. Because cowboys will literally come up with new terms for psychological conditions instead of just going to therapy.

    (Music plays)

    "Cowboys Will Come Up with New Terms for Psychological Conditions."

    Language does what it must.

    The blank-eyed crippling fear after being bucked,

    trampled, the unholy mess of your mind, is the Dread.

    It’ll keep you off your horse, away from your stock,

    let the coyotes pull the weakest calves into the trees

    while you rot in bed. Your young stallion is without redemption,

    you can’t catch his eye, pull a saddle from the rack,

    bring him down to the work ahead. And when you’re buried

    up to the neck in work, you work, but the Dread will drown you

    where you sit, fearful, you find the shotgun in your hand,

    watch him buck in the stall, bite at the line that holds him down.

    (4:47-4:59 Music plays)

    (4:48 Horse whinnies)

    Georgia: Thank you for listening to the first of our four-part series for National Poetry Month. And thank you to Lydia for kicking it off. Make sure to follow Why We Write on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts so that you never miss an episode. We'll be back next week with another poet and in the meantime, if you have comments, if you have ideas for future episodes, feel free to email us at news@lesley.edu.